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  • Apollon Bairaktaridis

The Business of War in Ukraine lll

The Panzerhaubitz in action with the Dutch Army in Afghanistan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The war in Ukraine has continued throughout the end of 2022. This period is commonly known as Rasputiza and refers officially to the end of autumn and beginning of winter and its well known for the creation of wide-ranging mud. For the battlefields in Ukraine, it means that warfare is changing until the winter period. Concretely, it means that infantry movements will slow down and the supply of the troops at the fronts becomes a greater challenge. The usage of artillery is gradually intensifying as it remains an effective method to attack the enemy under those circumstances. After the analysis of American and Russian weapons in the first two parts of this series, this time the spotlight is reserved for a European artillery system, namely the German Panzerhaubitze 2000 also known as PzH 2000.

After the first phase of the war ended, and it was obvious that Russia would not try any longer to conquer the capital Kyiv and instead focus on the east and south of the country, the Ukrainian government signalled its demand for offensive weaponry to balance the situation in the battlefield. Germany answered the call by delivering 7 PzH 2000 while also increasing the number gradually over the following months. Other countries who already had possessed the PzH 2000 also delivered some units.

What started as an optimistic mission resulted in mistrust and irritation. The Panzerhaubitze 2000 was immediately used by the Ukrainians in the battlefield, helping mostly the Ukrainian counteroffensive. In the beginning, it was used very effectively against the Russian army. But, due to the small number of units and the need of constant utilization, the demand for spare parts to repair and maintain the artillery system became more urgent. The German weapon industry and the German government missed the chance to take care of the situation on time, and this resulted in non-availability for the battlefield.

Ukraine and other owners of the system observed this fiasco and realized that Germany was partially unreliable. Ukraine lost many of the advantages it had gained through it, such as its ability to reposition itself quickly after a shot, an ability that the American Howitzer M777 does not possess. Another advantage of it was its ability to launch eight shots per minute for three consecutive minutes before it had to prepare for the next wave.

One could argue that it was not a technical issue which caused the fiasco of the system, but rather the Germans. However, it remains a fact though that existing and future purchasers rely on Germany for the service and maintenance of the system, especially during wartime. For the moment, we can state that the trust in Germans has been disturbed.

The system was purchased by countries like Croatia, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Qatar, Lithuania, Hungary and now Ukraine. Most of them ordered and received their units in the last couple of years. Ukraine has already ordered 100 more units for the near future, obligating themselves to pay 1.7 billion Euros. How Germany's mistake will affect all existing and future business is something only time will tell.

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